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Throwback Thursday: Frozen Niagara Falls Climbed

The first ice climb ascent of Canada's famous waterfall

Five years ago, two of the most well-known Canadian ice and mixed climbers, Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken, made the first ascent of an ice line up the left side of Horseshoe Falls, the largest of Niagara’s three sections and one of the most powerful waterfall in the world.

“I checked out the spot we were thinking of climbing in the summer,” says Gadd. “You’d be swept away by the torrential downpour then.” But this year’s cold winter slowed water flow, allowing climbable ice to form. “On a warm winter, there’s no climb here.”

After working with NYS Parks Department and NYS Parks Police, Gadd and his team were able to create a comprehensive plan to ensure the climb could be done safely and the necessary precautions were taken to protect the natural environment, as he put the final touch on one of his most epic years ever as a climber. “It’s one of the most visited places in North America. We have to treat it as a jewel, or it won’t work.”


Black Diamond custom made a modified Spectre Ice Piton for the ascent. On Gadd’s harness were a dozen ice screws, quickdraws, a jumar and a couple new Spectres.

New custom-made ice Spectre by Black Diamond
New custom-made ice Spectre by Black Diamond

The Niagara Falls Climb